Whether it’s failing to process veterans’ medical claims or mishandling veterans’ private information, the VA has a huge document control issue it just can’t seem to fix.
When it was found years ago that veterans were dying due in part to delays in processing claims, the VA announced it would work on finding solutions to fix the issue. Since that time, however, the claims backlog has only grown longer. Last year, the backlog stood at 76,000 claims—as of last month, that number was up to 101,000.
While the wait times for unprocessed claims are growing, there are also widespread instances of claims being mishandled.
Last year, the VA inspector general stated that the shredding of claims by employees has become “a systemic issue” that “could result in loss of claims and medical evidence” and “incorrect decisions.” Out of ten regional offices, six had serious problems related to the inappropriate shredding of documents.
There have also been cases in which documents were left unsecure and completely disregarded, as was the case in Virginia when dozens of boxes of private medical information and benefits applications were found in the storage unit of a former VA employee. In at least one case, veterans’ private medical records were also mailed to the wrong person.
While the VA has acknowledged this widespread issue, it has done little to hold accountable the employees that are responsible. In three years since one of the biggest VA scandals, in which employees at the Phoenix VA knowingly falsified wait lists while their supervisors directed it or looked the other way, less than 10 employees involved have been terminated. Those that were fired were on paid leave for almost two years before their termination.
This unacceptable disregard for the wellbeing of our veterans can only be fixed when the people responsible face consequences. Luckily, a bill has been proposed in the House of Representatives that would do just that, while giving extra protections for employees that come forward with instances of wrongdoing.
There has never been a bigger need for more accountability at the VA. You can tell your lawmakers to support the VA Accountability First Act of 2017 by clicking here.
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